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Lightning to blame for Gaza rocket launch, officials say

By Sommer Brokaw
Lightning to blame for Gaza rocket launch, officials say
A Palestinian man walks on debris Wednesday following an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

Oct. 24 (UPI) -- A lightning storm caused a malfunction that fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip last week, Israeli cabinet ministers said.

Security Cabinet ministers said Israeli intelligence believe Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not deliberately fire the the rockets, but rather they were set off by a malfunction caused by a lightning storm.

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In response, Israel fighter jets struck three areas in the Gaza Strip, with airstrikes killing a 25-year-old man, officials said.

"At 4 a.m. Israelis in the city of Beersheba were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel," The Israel Defense Force said on Twitter. "We will defend Israeli civilians."

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Since the rocket launch was found to be accidental, cabinet ministers decided against responding with force.

One of the rockets hit a home and caused significant structural damage, but no injuries. The other landed off the coast of greater Tel Aviv area called Gush Dan.

Officials said the projectiles were armed to strike, in the event of an outbreak of violence.

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Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied firing the rockets, saying it would have been "irresponsible" and threatening to Egyptian and United Nations efforts to reach a peace agreement.

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"I don't believe that Hamas or anyone else there is putting in place measures to protect against short circuits. They work fairly simply," Tal Inbar, a rocketry expert at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, told The Times, explaining how lightning caused the accidental fire.

"March of Return" protests by Palestinian refugees wanting to return to homes, now under Israeli control, have resulted in violent clashes in the area in weekly Friday demonstrations since March 30.

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